MPM 1/72 Bristol Blenheim Mk.I Build Review

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Kit: 72500 MPM Bristol Blenheim Mk.I

Price: £17.35 available from Wonderland Models Edinburgh,
Scotland UK

Decals: Three options

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Multi-media kit with resin and photo-etched parts. After market accessories used: Eduard CX 253 Blenheim Mk.I masks; Inscale decal set AC 019 Blenheim Mk.I & IV providing 11 decal options.

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History

The Bristol Blenheim was a British light bomber designed and built by the Bristol Aircraft company during the 1930s and was used extensively during the Second World War. The Blenheim was considered state of the art during the 1930’s incorporating innovative features such as retractable landing gear, being of all metal stressed-skin construction, flaps, powered gun turret and variable pitch propellers.

Many air forces at this time were still operating biplane fighters of metal-tube frame and fabric construction in their front-line squadrons. Unfortunately for the Blenheim fighter design in the run up to the second world war increased at a prodigious pace and overtook the Blenheim’s once revolutionary design. However, in the right hands, the Bristol Blenheim proved a fast and effective bomber as the Finnish Air Force demonstrated in both the Winter and Continuation Wars against the Soviet Union.

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The Finnish Ministry of Defence ordered 18 Blenheim Is (BL-104 – BL-121) from the Bristol Co. as the first foreign customer on October 6th, 1936. The first two planes arrived in Helsinki on July 29th 1937 the last two being delivered on July 27th 1938. (This batch was called series I in Finland).

On April 12th 1938 a production licence was acquired, and 15 Blenheim IIs were subsequently ordered from the State Aircraft Factory; Valtion lentokonetehdas (VL) on April 6th 1939 (series II). Before production had started World War II and the Finnish-Soviet Winter War broke out and two batches were ordered from England.

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12 ‘Long-nosed’ Blenheim IVs (BL-122 – BL133; series III) were handed over to Finnish crews on January 17th 1940. Ten aircraft arrived in Finland four days later (one aircraft disappeared over the North Sea and a second one arrived in Finland on February 26th, 1940 after an accident in Sweden).

Series IV consisted of 12 Blenheim Is (BL-134 to BL-145) which arrived in Finland on February 26th 1940 flown by British transfer crews. During the short peace period between the Winter War and the Continuation War with the Soviet Union, the Aircraft Factory started production of the previously ordered series II (BL-146 to BL-160), the first aircraft being delivered on June 14th and the last on January 9th 1942.

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On February 7th 1942 an order was placed at the factory for 30 Blenheim IIs (series V, coded BL-161 to BL-190. Delivered from July 28th to November 26th 1943) and for 10 Blenheim IVs (series VI, coded BL-196 to BL-205, delivered from February 26th to April 15th 1944).

VL had thus produced a total of 45 Blenheim IIs and 10 Blenheim IVs. A further order for five Blenheim IVs, which had been placed on July 27th 1943, was cancelled after the armistice with the Soviet Union on September 19th 1944. The Finnish Air Force had a total of 97 Blenheims.

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The Winter War 1939-1940

 The Finnish bomber forces consisted of Lentorykmentti 4 subordinate to the HQ and commanded by Everstiluutnantti (Lieutenant Colonel) T. Somerto. The regiment had of two Blenheim-equipped squadrons based at Luonetjärvi: Lentolaivue 44 (CO Majuri E. Stenback, 8 Blenheims in three flights led by Kapteeni O. Lumjala, 1st Luutnanti K. Pirhonen and 1st Luutnanti B.Ek) and Lentolaivue 46 (CO Majuri O. Sarko, 9 Blenheims in three flights led by Kapteeni J. Piponius, Kapteeni K. Kepsu and 1st Luutnanti Y. Siirrilä).

Both squadrons performed their first missions on December 1st 1940, when two Blenheims of LLv 44 photographed the Repola-Lentiera road while three Blenheims of LLV 46 bombed Soviet trucks at Tsalkki (north of Säämäjärvi). On the return leg one aircraft crashed in poor weather.

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During December 1939 the tasks were concentrated in three main directions: NE Lake Ladoga, Repola and Suomussalmi. The missions were usually performed with single aircraft. On December 19th LLv 44 carried out five missions and LLv 46 three missions in the NE Lake Ladoga sector. For the first time Soviet fighters were encountered in bigger numbers. The speed of the Blenheims ensured a safe return.

On December 20th three Blenheims of LLv 46 were attacked by three I-16s when photographing the coast road of Lake Ladoga. The gunner of one of the Blenheim’s shot down an I-16. On Christmas Eve LLv 44 carried out six missions to the Säämäjärvi and LLv 46, three missions to the Säämäjärvi-Tulemajärvi road and one to Porajärvi.

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December 27th was the busiest day of LeR 4 during 1939. LLv 44 performed seven missions to the Tulemajärvi-Käsnasselkä area and LLv 46 bombed the same area with two flights of three aircraft each, and also carried out one recce mission in the Kiantajärvi direction. At the beginning of 1940LLv 44 had five and LLv 46 eight serviceable Blenheims.

During January 1940 the main target was still the NE Lake Ladoga sector. A few photo-recce missions were performed in the Repola and Aunus directions, usually with single aircraft. On January 19th a Blenheim of LLv 46 discovered and bombed a Soviet Air Force base on the frozen lake Karkulampi with 60-70 aircraft stationed at the facility. On the next day four planes of LLv 44 bombed the base twice. A number of hits were recorded. On January 21st LLv 46 received ten long-nosed Blenheim IVs. The remaining five Blenheim Is were transferred to LLv 44, which was to operate alone during the one month training period of LLv 46.

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The same methods of operations continued during February: recce and bombing tasks mostly by single planes in the NE Lake Ladoga sector, with a few missions to the Repola area, using Kuluntalahti as a temporary base. On February 19th the regiment carried out its first mission to the Karelian Istmus with one aircraft photographing the Kuolemajärvi-Raivola-Terijoki area. The next day Suursaari, Tytärsaari and Seiskari in the Gulf of Finland were photographed.

A third squadron, LLv 42 was formed on January 16th and on February 26th twelve Blenheim Is were received in Juva. LLv 42 was commanded by Kapteeni A. Eskola and consisted of three flights (1st Luutnanti O. Haaki, 1st Luutnanti O. Pesola and 1st Luutnanti K. Havola). On February 26th LLv 46 performed its first missions with its new Mk. IV Blenheims, bombing the enemy AF base at Lotinanpelto with eight aircraft, three of which found the main target, the others bombing various reserve targets. Including Krasnaya Gorka AF base.

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The following night three planes repeated the attack and eight enemy aircraft were observed on fire. At the end of February all missions were directed to the Karelian Isthmus – enemy troops, vehicles, trains etc. were attacked on 33 missions during the next five days. On March 1st LLv 46 carried out six missions to the Isthmus. At Valkeasaari one I-16 was shot down by a Blenheim gunner. On March 4th the Russians had already got a bridgehead on the western shore on the Gulf of Viipuri at Vilaniemi and at Häräpäänniemi. All regiments were ordered to attack the Soviet troops advancing over the frozen gulf of Viipuri. The newly formed LLv 42 also joined the battle attacking Soviet troops on the ice together with LLv 44 at Kiuskeri and Iso-Kalastaja.

The next day all squadrons of LeR 4 carried out 33 bombing and ground-attack missions at Pulliniemi and Vilanjemi. The dive-bombers of LeR 1 and the fighters of LeR 2 decimated the advancing enemy. The operations at the bay of Viipuri were to continue for the next days and they were to be the largest ground attack missions carried out by the Finnish Air Force.  On March 7th both LLv 42 and LLv 46 lost one bomber shot down by enemy fighters. On March 10th a gunner of LLv 42 shot down an enemy I-153 at Muhulahti, while Soviet fighters shot down the Blenheim of Kapteeni J. Piponius. 2nd Luutnanti J. Turpeninen succeeded him. A gunner of LLv 42 shot down one I-153 while another made a forced landing after being hit.

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On March 11th the enemy activity at the bay of Viipuri had grown quiet and LeR 4 was directed with all flights to the Tali area. On the next day the Russians crossed the Vuoksi River at Pölläkkälä and were attacked by LLv 44 and 46. LLv 42 and LLv 46 bombed Vaskkasaari at Koivisto.

On March 13th 1940 at 11.00 am all hostilities ceased. The 105 days of the Winter War were over.

The regiment had flown 423 sorties, dropped 131 tonnes of bombs, and spent 20700 rounds of ammunition. LLv 44 lost five Blenheims and five airmen. LLv 46 lost seven Blenheims and eleven airmen, LLv 42 lost one Blenheim and four airmen.

Cover Shot

The Kit

 The MPM 1/72 Bristol Blenheim Mk.I consists of three sprues in grey injection moulded plastic, one fret of clear parts containing the canopy which is supplied in three sections, the rear turret and a circular mount for the turret moulded in clear plastic. Included in the kit are one fret of photo-etched parts and a selection of resin components.

After carefully washing the kit in a warm soapy solution and allowing the parts to dry in order to remove the mould release, I set about cutting away the parts that would not be required in this build. MPM supplies a 9 page instruction booklet including three colour options in black and white. One Finnish Blenheim Mk.I L-143 in standard black/green camouflage, a British example; K 7059/TW in RAF dark green/dark earth upper surfaces with black undersurfaces and a Royal Yugoslavian Air Force example from 1938.

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At the time I bought the kit, I purchased Kari Stenman’s excellent book on the Bristol Blenheim, Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 10. After a careful review of this publication I bought a set on inSCALE 1/72 Bristol Blenheim Mk.I & Mk.IV decals in Finnish service 1938-41. I elected to build Blenheim BL-141 of LLv 42 at LuonetJärvi in August 1940 in standard RAF Bomber command markings of RAF Dark Earth/Dark Green and Black undersurfaces from 1939.

 Construction

 An inspection of the parts revealed that this kit would require a certain amount of care to build. The plastic is quite thin and contain a reasonable amount of flash. The removal of which would require a fresh knife blade and a steady hand.

I started the build by spraying all of the parts with grey auto-primer from a rattle can. I then sprayed all of the interior parts with Humbrol Hu 78 Interior green and painted all relevant parts, such as the Bristol Mercury Engines, wheels and cockpit accessories in Humbrol Hu 33 Black.

Curiously the propellers, exhaust, undercarriage and additional peripheral items are located on an octagonal sprue tree. The undercarriage parts required an extensive clean-up. I had to discard the supporting struts for the twin cross-braced undercarriage legs as they were too flimsy and covered in too much flash to use. I substituted these items with brass rod.

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The cockpit was well furnished with bulk-heads; etch control panel and seat belts for both the Pilot and Bomb aimer/Navigator. The fit was excellent and the fuselage halves went together without any problems at all. Once the fuselage had been taped and allowed to dry overnight, I glued the two halves of the canopy together using Humbrol clearfix and then set about masking the canopy with Eduard’s Blenheim Mk.I canopy mask. I had to take great care during this process as many of the mask strips are small, however, the instructions are clear and with a little patience the result was satisfactory.

Step 6 dealt with the wings and undercarriage assembly. This was a straight forward affair which once taped and left to dry allowed me to move quickly onto the engine cowling and engine construction. Due to the painting preparation that I mentioned earlier, this too was a simple process.

Once the engine units, wings and fuselage had been constructed, the sub-assemblies were joined and left to dry overnight. Once dry, green putty was applied to areas where gaps were apparent allowed to dry and were carefully sanded down using a medium sanding stick and 400 grit wet and dry paper. The whole aircraft was then buffed using a sanding stick before being masked in preparation for spraying.

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Camouflage and Markings

 I elected to build Blenheim Mk.I BL-141 from inSCALES decal sheet. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen’s Suomen Ilmavoimien 10, Bristol Blenheim book was invaluable in the painting stage. Unfortunately, the book reports that BL-141 was reported missing in action on the 27th July 1941. Nevertheless, I decided to build this example because it sports the original RAF scheme and makes an interesting addition to my usual VL green and black WWII Finnish aircraft. The underside was painted gloss black with the top-side in RAF pattern dark green and dark earth. The painting process was really straight forward; the camouflage demarcation was achieved with rolled blu-tac. Once the paint had dried overnight, the masking was removed.

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Final Construction

 Once the masking was removed, the canopy mask was detached using a fresh knife blade and some patience in order to avoid scratching the canopy. At this stage the decals were applied, I used the kit-supplied MPM national insignia as they looked superior to the inSCALE offering, however the inSCALE registration codes were used. A cote of Johnson’s Klear floor wax was applied to seal in the decals before the exhaust baffles, wheels, and aerials were applied.

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Conclusion

 This kit was a pleasure to build albeit with some areas that require some thought in order to make a first class model. Highly recommended.

References

  • Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 10, Bristol Blenheim, Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen. Printed in Finland by Painoyhtymä. 2004.
  • Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, SOTAMAALAUS – WARPAINT Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen. Printed in Finland by Painoyhtymä. 2003.
  • Camouflage & Markings, Bristol Blenheim, Number 7. Copyright Ducimus Books Ltd 1968.
  • The Bristol Blenheim A complete history by Graham Warner. Crecy publishing Ltd. 2002.

The History section of this article is courtesy of Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 10, Bristol Blenheim by Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen.

Richard Reynolds.

 

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